Soon, as in one week from now, the Raiders will be homeless. There’s a lot to sort out between now and the Raiders’ inaugural season in Las Vegas (set for 2020), but for one night, none of that mattered. Monday was about giving Oakland, a fan base set to lose its football team for a second time, one final memory. And boy did they get one.
Christmas came early for Raiders fans as Jon Gruden’s squad closed out the Coliseum in impressive fashion, blasting the visiting Broncos in the final Monday night game of 2018. The Raiders were led by Stockton, California native Doug Martin, who seized the moment by rushing for 107 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. The Muscle Hamster looked as good as he has in years, contributing his most rushing yards since Week 11 of 2015.
Not much was expected of Martin coming off a rollercoaster tenure in Tampa Bay, but the 29-year-old has answered the bell, filling in admirably for injured workhorse Marshawn Lynch. Including Monday night, the former Boise State Bronco has found the end zone in four of his last five contests. Martin’s 24-yard touchdown sprint against Denver was easily his longest of the season. He wasn’t the only Raiders ball-carrier to score as Jalen Richard also crossed the pylon for his first end-zone visit of 2018. Despite the lack of touchdowns, Richard has still enjoyed a modicum of success this year, breaking out for 66 catches, good for seventh-most among running backs.
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The Raiders entered the week with three wins by a combined eight points. But unlike their previous victories, Monday’s result was never in doubt as the Raiders defeated Denver convincingly. Aside from Martin’s heroics, Oakland also received a lift from Dwayne Harris, who took a first-quarter kickoff to the house for a 99-yard score. That marked his first return touchdown since 2015 and the fifth of his career.
With Oakland leading comfortably for much of the night, Derek Carr saw one of his lightest workloads of the year, attempting just 26 passes in the Raiders’ 27-14 triumph. Carr rarely worked the ball downfield, throwing for a modest 167 yards with 75 going to first-year Raider Jordy Nelson. Speaking of Nelson, the former Packer has been a force recently, impressing with 308 yards (77 per game) over his last four appearances. While Nelson’s connection with Carr has strengthened throughout the year, his recent emergence has also been by necessity with Martavis Bryant injured (he’s also serving an indefinite suspension) and Amari Cooper now a member of the Dallas Cowboys. No one would ever mistake Carr for Aaron Rodgers, but the two do share one common trait—they rarely throw picks. In fact, Monday was Carr’s 10th straight game without an interception.
Wherever the future may take them, the win was a fitting send-off for the Raiders and a nice reprieve in an otherwise listless season under retread head coach Jon Gruden. For the Raiders, winning at the expense of their division rival was icing on the cake. Monday’s letdown clinched the Broncos’ second straight losing season, the first time they’ve encountered consecutive losing years since 1971-72. The Broncos were in the wild card mix earlier this month but they’ve limped to the finish line, dropping three in a row to fall out of the playoff hunt.
Denver has had its moments, surprising with wins over the playoff-bound Seahawks and Chargers, but overall, it’s been a thorny ride for John Elway’s bunch. Monday’s clunker did little to help Vance Joseph’s job security and at this point, it would be a shock if the Broncos brought him back for a third season. Joseph’s two seasons at the controls have been a ceaseless debacle (11-20 record), though poor quarterback play has plagued him throughout his Mile-High tenure. The Broncos thought Case Keenum would be the solution after seeing him break out for the Vikings in 2017, but he hasn’t had the same success in Denver, ranking near the bottom of the league in most passing categories.
Playing with an injury-depleted pass-catching unit—the Broncos featured a trio of first-year players (Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton and Tim Patrick) at the receiver position Monday night—Keenum went off the rails against Oakland, delivering one of his worst performances of 2018. The 30-year-old Houston product wowed with his mobility at times—Keenum’s 17-yard scramble in the third quarter was his longest of the year—but his downfield accuracy was so lacking that it made the Raiders’ anemic defense look competent. Any hope the Broncos had of a comeback went out the door with Keenum’s two fourth-quarter picks. That upped his season interception total to 14, third-most in the league behind only Ben Roethlisberger and Sam Darnold (15 a piece). As was the case last year when Denver trotted out names like Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Brock Osweiler, the Broncos’ long-term answer at quarterback isn’t on their roster right now.
Even if the Broncos finish the year on a high note by upsetting the Chargers in Week 17, there’s still a high probability Joseph will be cleaning out his office on Black Monday. It’s been a frustrating year for all involved but at least the Broncos can pat themselves on the back for discovering diamond-in-the-rough Phillip Lindsay. Undrafted out of nearby Colorado, the diminutive rookie has taken the league by storm while quickly reaching lead status in Denver’s backfield pecking order. Already heading to his first Pro Bowl, Lindsay hit another bench-mark Monday by becoming the sixth Broncos rookie and the first since 2002 to rush for over 1,000 yards. Unfortunately, Lindsay couldn’t enjoy his accomplishment for long as the 24-year-old spent much of the second half sidelined by a hand injury.
Maybe the Raiders will patch things up with the city of Oakland and return for one last season in 2019. But if Monday night was really the Raiders’ Oakland swan song, at least they went out in style.
Quick Hits: Mike Wallace was activated from injured reserve on Monday. The veteran deep threat hasn’t played since breaking his leg in Week 2 … A day after reaching the playoffs for the sixth time in their last seven seasons, the Seahawks rewarded coach Pete Carroll with a multi-year contract extension. The 67-year-old has coached Seattle since 2010 … Speaking of Carroll, the Seahawks head honcho expects Rashaad Penny to return for Week 17 against the Cardinals. The rookie running back has sat out the last two games with an injured knee … The Titans re-signed QB Austin Davis, who spent two weeks with the team earlier this year. Davis’ return could be a sign that Tennessee expects Marcus Mariota to miss Week 17 after picking up a stinger Saturday against Washington … Jurrell Casey is done for the year after landing on injured reserve with a sprained MCL. The four-time Pro Bowler owns PFF’s No. 2 run-stopping grade among defensive tackles this year … Austin Ekeler is expected back for the Chargers’ regular season finale against Denver in Week 17. A concussion and a stinger have kept him out the past two games … The Redskins waived D.J. Swearinger just two days after he made comments that were critical of the team’s coaching staff. Swearinger, who holds PFF’s No. 12 safety grade out of 89 qualifiers this year, shouldn’t take long to resurface … Colt McCoy (leg) has been ruled out for the Redskins’ finale, meaning Josh Johnson will draw another start against the Eagles in Week 17. Jordan Reed, who has missed the last two games with a nagging toe injury, is also expected to sit … Giants coach Pat Shurmur confirmed Eli Manning will be under center for this week’s finale against Dallas. It could be Manning’s final game as a Giant, though reports suggest he’ll be back for a 16th season in New York … Jets CEO Christopher Johnson denied the team’s interest in Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, insisting, “Todd Bowles is our head coach.” Despite the vote of confidence, it would be a surprise if the Jets retained Bowles, who has won a combined 14 games over his last three seasons … Quincy Enunwa is expected to miss another game in Week 17. He hasn’t played since spraining his ankle in a Week 14 win at Buffalo. With Jermaine Kearse (Achilles) also in doubt for this week’s finale, New York’s receiving corps will be running on fumes against the Patriots … According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Todd Gurley could be held out again in Week 17 after missing Sunday’s game with knee inflammation. C.J. Anderson lit up the Cardinals for 167 yards Sunday in his Rams debut and would draw another start if Gurley can’t get the green light against San Francisco … Taylor Heinicke underwent an MRI on Monday after injuring his elbow in Sunday’s loss to Atlanta. If Heinicke can’t go for the finale, signal-calling duties would fall in the hands of undrafted rookie Kyle Allen, who was promoted from the practice squad last week … Now that they’ve been eliminated, the Panthers could rest Christian McCaffrey against the Saints in Week 17. If that’s the case, he’ll finish his sophomore season with 106 catches, the most ever by an NFL running back. He’s also the first Panther to rush for 1,000 yards since Jonathan Stewart did the deed in 2010 … According to Peter King of NBC Sports, there’s mutual interest between the Cardinals and Mike McCarthy, who was let go by Green Bay earlier this year. Arizona is expected to part ways with head coach Steve Wilks at the end of 2018 … Falcons coach Dan Quinn was mum on Tevin Coleman’s status, only offering that he’s “day-to-day.” Coleman injured his groin in Sunday’s win at Carolina. Already playing without Devonta Freeman (groin) and Ito Smith (knee), the Falcons would likely turn to Brian Hill at running back if Coleman isn’t cleared for Week 17 … Matt Breida is out for Week 17 with an ankle injury he suffered in Sunday’s loss to the Bears. Dante Pettis, who is dealing with a sprained MCL, will also be a spectator for this week’s finale against the Rams.